With high-quality cameras on smartphones, it may seem that paying for photographers is a thing of the past. However, as photography has become more popular, demand has also risen for better quality photography and for those that shoot professionally. Weddings, engagements, newborn photography, family lifestyle shoots, and even military homecomings have breathed new life into the professional photography industry.
Photography can be an art, a hobby, or just a way of documenting your own life. For some, photography is a career. Professional photographers work in a variety of fields, from advertising to journalism. They can also work independently, doing portraiture, or creating and selling prints for display.
Skills You Need to Be a Photographer
You don’t need a special degree to become a professional photographer, though an art degree can certainly help you hone your skills. Many photographers develop skills using professional equipment and then begin taking pictures. Many of the top-selling photographers in the world taught themselves.
However, competition can be fierce. The very fact that anyone with a camera can take pictures means you’ll have to be exceptional in some way or another to be noticed.
One way to stand out when applying for jobs is to emphasize that you have skills that employers are looking for in a photographer.
Types of Photography Skills
Hardware and Software
To be a successful photographer, you need to know the latest technologies. This includes developments in both hardware and software.
Hardware, in this case, refers to cameras, lenses, tripods, lights, and all the other physical equipment a photographer might use. Some of that equipment is extremely complicated to use until mastered. Just as an aspiring poet must first be fluent in the language he or she uses for composition, so must you become fluent in the tools you use. Professional cameras have unique pros and cons, as well as variations in which optics are best used with a specific camera or location.
It is possible to create great pictures by pointing and shooting, but you will have more control and more options the more you know about manual camera settings.
Additionally, you must be familiar with visual editing software. Now that digital photography has become standard, the work that used to be done in the darkroom is typically accomplished on the computer. There are many different software packages to choose from. Learn enough to pick your favorite, and then master its options.
- Digital Imaging
- Editing Software
- DSLR Cameras
- Electronic Image Handling
- Film Development
- High-resolution imaging
- Image manipulation
- ISO Speeds
- Shooting Film
Composition is the artistic dimension of photography—knowing how you want the image to look. Although one aspect of composition is simply the photographer’s taste and creativity, you do have to learn how to think deliberately and intelligently about what looks good in a frame and why. There are certain universal principles that you should learn, rather than having to reinvent them through trial and error.
- Artistic Ability
- Good Eyesight
While not all photographers work independently, many do. Working as a freelancer or selling prints requires you to be your own business manager. You must handle everything from marketing to payroll, and you must know how to speak with potential clients or customers.
- Customer service
- Able to Read and Understand Contracts
- Copyright Law
Attention to Detail
Photographers need to have good attention to detail when taking photographs – they need to be able to capture light and color and think carefully about all components of each image. However, they also need to be detailed in postproduction. They must identify and fix any small issues in each photograph.
Photographers must also be organized. They must be able to manage thousands of photographs digitally and/or in print and maintain digital albums for each client.
More Photography Skills
- Close Reading
- Critical Thinking
- Understanding of Intellectual Property
- Disclosure Agreements
- Entity Establishment
- Social Media Management
- Website Development
- Computer Skills
- Adobe Creative Suite
- Flash Photography
- Lifestyle Photography
- Portrait Photography
- Wedding Photography
- Studio Design
- Customer Service
- Creating and Managing Expectations
- Problem Sensitivity
- Physical Endurance
- Written Communication
- Oral Communication
- Price Setting
How to Apply for Photography Jobs
Prepare to apply for jobs. If you are working freelance and are looking for clients, much of your work may come through networking, and you might not submit formal
application materials very often. If you are seeking a more traditional job,
however, you will likely need to compile job materials and prepare for an
interview. In this case, knowing the top photography skills will come in very
Create a professional portfolio. When applying for jobs, most photographers develop a portfolio—a collection of your photographs—that you can share with potential employers and clients to demonstrate your style and range. After all, your value as a photographer ultimately depends not on your history or your equipment but on the type and quality of the images you can produce.
List relevant skills in your resume. For example, in your resume, include some of the most important photography skill words in your resume summary and your “Experience” section. You might also create a “Skills” section on your resume, and list some of your key photography skills there. You might also list the photographic
equipment and software you are familiar with.
Include skills in your cover letter. When submitting a cover letter, you can select one or two key skills and provide examples of how you have demonstrated those skills at work in the past. For example, you might talk about how you took a course on a particular photography software, and explain how you have mastered it and used it professionally.
Resume and Cover Letter Examples
Review examples of a resume and cover letter for a professional photographer, with tips and advice on what to include.
How to Make Your Skills Stand Out
Prepare a Portfolio: Create a portfolio to share with potential employers and clients to demonstrate your style and range.
Highlight Skills in Your Cover Letter: When submitting a cover letter, mention the skills that are most closely related to the job.
Use Skill Words in Your Job Interview: In interviews, you mention some of the key photography skills you have, and provide anecdotes about times you used each of these skills at work.